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  1. Life & Culture

José José, the “Prince of the Song” dies

The National Association of Interpreters of Mexico confirmed the death of the singer in his Twitter account without specifying the causes.
Christian Pacheco holds up a signed record by Jose Jose standing among fans gathered to mourn his death at Jose Jose's statue in Mexico City, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Mexican crooner Jose Jose, the elegant dresser who moved audiences to tears with melancholic love ballads and was known as the "Prince of Song," has died at the age of 71. Mexican artists' association ANDI confirmed the death in a Twitter post on Saturday. (AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez)
Christian Pacheco holds up a signed record by Jose Jose standing among fans gathered to mourn his death at Jose Jose's statue in Mexico City, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Mexican crooner Jose Jose, the elegant dresser who moved audiences to tears with melancholic love ballads and was known as the "Prince of Song," has died at the age of 71. Mexican artists' association ANDI confirmed the death in a Twitter post on Saturday. (AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez) [ ANTHONY VAZQUEZ | AP ]
Published Sep. 29, 2019

MEXICO CITY - José José, who conquered the public interpreting classics such as “El triste”, “40 y 20” and “Amar y querer”, sold millions of records and filled such emblematic venues as Madison Square Garden and the Radio City Music Hall in New York died on Saturday. He was 71 years old.

The National Association of Interpreters of Mexico confirmed the death of the singer in his Twitter account without specifying the causes. Nicknamed the "Prince of the Song," the Mexican icon of romantic music was in Florida at the time of his death, according to local media reports.

His voice, with a wide record and power and that has been described as a combination of baritone and lyrical tenor, was able to move all the audiences before which he appeared. His elegant way of dressing extended his appeal among the masses, who for years associated him with the night scene in Mexico and Latin America.

The star had confirmed in a video published in March 2017 that he suffered from pancreatic cancer, after conjectures were generated due to hospitalization in Mexico City.

“I am ready to face this new adventure in my life from the hand of God and from your hand,” said the singer in the video.

For years, José José had various health problems. One of the most obvious was his difficulty in breathing and speaking due to a paralysis of the half of the body caused by Lyme disease.

"I have problems with this eye, the larynx, the pharynx, with the lung, with the stomach, my intestines ... All as a result of the attack of the bacteria," he said in a March 2015 press conference. Years before he had also suffered severe pneumonia that collapsed a lung.

But perhaps what most affected his life were depression, alcoholism and drug addiction, which he suffered from his youth until well into adulthood, and which also affected his voice. José José openly addressed this situation in interviews and conferences, as well as in his memoir "This is my life", published in 2008.

It's "the saddest thing I've faced," he acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press in 2005. But "thank God I'm 12 sober, thanks to the Alcoholics Anonymous program that led me to put my life in the hands of God, ”he said then.

His problems with drugs and alcohol ended in 1993 with his marriage to the model Anel Noreña, with whom he was married since 1975 and with whom he had his children José Joel y Marisol. His separation only made him worse and hit bottom, coming to live in a taxi on the outskirts of the capital. Journalist Ricardo Rocha and businesswoman Tina Galindo rescued him and took him to a rehabilitation clinic in the United States.

José José, whose real name was José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz, was born on February 17, 1948 in Mexico City, in a family of musicians. His mother was the concert pianist Margarita Ortiz Pensado (1911-2004) and his father the tenor of the Mexican National Opera José Sosa Esquivel, who died when the star was 17 after the release of his first album, and in whose memory he adopted His stage name.

The singer was marked by alcoholism and the abandonment of his father, whom he saw again only shortly before he died. His mother established a kitchen to support José José and his brother Gonzalo.

"I wanted to honor the memory of my father, who was a great opera singer and died very young, without knowing my success," he said in the interview with the AP. "As I inherited his voice, it is in recognition of that heritage."

In the beginning, he sang in cafes and founded the rock band Heart Breakers. In the mid-1960s he recorded a trio record that was unsuccessful, and later one as a soloist that also had no impact.

His first success came with the song "The ship of oblivion." A year later, in 1970, he won third place for Mexico at the World Festival of Latin Song (precursor to the OTI Festival) with the theme "The sad" by Roberto Cantoral. After this presentation, the public threw flowers and cheered him standing.

"That marked my life forever," he said.

For those first years of success, he married Natalia "Kiki" Herrera Calles, a wealthy woman 20 years older than him. The marriage was brief and the separation stormy, because by then I already had a relationship with Anel.

The pinnacle of his career came in the 1980s with albums such as "Love Love" and "Secrets" with Manuel Alejandro, the best selling of his career.

Nominated several times for the Grammy Award, he never won that trophy, but in 2004 the Latin Recording Academy recognized him with the Musical Excellence Award on the eve of Latin Grammy. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, unveiled in 2004. According to his official biography, he sold more than 95 million records.

José José not only dedicated himself to music. He also acted in several Mexican films, such as the biographical tape "Gavilán o paloma" (1985) and "Forgive me all" (1995), in which he gave life to Ricardo Alfaro, a singer-songwriter who has failed because of alcoholism; and in soap operas that include "The most beautiful ugly" (2006-2007).

"I really like acting, but logically getting on stage to transmit the work of a composer who is inspired by God is something magical," he said in 2005. His secret to stay in force for so many years: "Constant promotion."

In 1995 José José married for the third time, with his current wife Sarita Salazar, a widow and mother of two girls whom he met when he was admitted to the United States, and who decided to help him despite the deplorable state he was in. The singer and Sarita, who is Cuban, had their daughter Sara the following year. Some time later she and her husband Yimmy took over the representation of the singer based in Miami.

But perhaps the greatest love was given by his fans, who in all those years did not abandon him, even when his voice failed. Even in 2017 José José had presentations in Puerto Rico and the United States, in the eyes of followers for whom he always was and will be the “Prince of the Song”.